Gambler’s Fallacy: How Bettors Fall Victim to Superstition

Last updated on May 31st, 2022

On the 18th of August 1913, gamblers in the famous Casino de Monte-Carlo in Monaco were having a great time after the ball fell on black 26 times in a row. Thinking that the ball will not land on black anymore, they placed their bets to the red. The ball still landed on black. They kept on thinking that the ball would never touch black again, they stayed on red, but the ball still went to black.


The gamblers still went firm on red, while the ball still continued to hit black. As a result, the gamblers lost millions of francs. They incorrectly thought that betting on red against black will give balance on the bet.


The story was a real event that happened in Monaco, and it was the most famous illustration of an anomaly called ‘Gambler’s Fallacy.’ It also came to be known as the ‘Monte-Carlo fallacy’ after that famous incident.


One could not fully blame punters who think the way described in the fallacy as results really are random. That’s why punters could always use mathematical tricks as tools to guide them in their bets, such as mathematical betting formulas, fixed profit calculations, or Asian handicap computation


Learn more how you can deal with this misconception. A keen punter studies the game, uses different strategies and betting styles before placing stakes.



Gambler’s fallacy in betting


As seen in the example above, the gambler’s fallacy is a flawed belief that events that happen more frequently than normal are less likely to occur in the future to balance out the results (law of averages). But this is not a real mathematical probability but a common-day hunch.


But many gamblers have been known to transfer this theory into sports betting too, which can be a dangerous thing to do. Using the law of averages, many use the principle that a streak of wins will be followed by a streak of losses. Applying this theory essentially suggests teams would end up with the same number of wins and losses during a season, which is clearly not always the case.


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For another example, Arsenal has been enjoying a 20-match unbeaten run. Some punters would bet that the Gunners will still get out of the match undefeated. Meanwhile, other bettors might have thought otherwise because a balancing loss would definitely come out this time. Arsenal apparently wins and those who thought that the Gunners will not dominate the match will lose their bets.


Despite seeing the consistency in Arsenal’s performance, those who lost their bets still thought otherwise. This is one of the errors sports bettors are making that could have been avoided.


This fallacy could also work otherwise. For instance, a lot of people thought that either Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo would win the 2018 Ballon d’Or again this time because they dominated the award for the past ten years. It turns out, Luka Modric topped the award, while Ronaldo only went second and Messi to the fifth.



Dealing with the ‘random’


These bettors may not know them by name, but it’s most likely that they confuse the law of averages with the law of large numbers. 


betting myths and misconceptions


The law of large numbers is a real mathematical theorem that guarantees stable long-term results of random events. In the first example, the possibility of the ball landing on black or red more than 26 times is 1 in 66.6 million. But following the theorem, the results can be closer to balance out results (50% black, 50% red) if the game was played more than 26 times (and we mean played by a million times).


So despite it being a real theorem, you can’t use it to predict sport games results. But luckily, unlike slot machines or roulette, sports betting is not completely random. The variables like previous performance, weather, squad list, and so on are there. 


You cannot completely remove the unpredictability of any game, but you can lessen it by doing an in-depth analysis of these matches. Another step is to acknowledge different betting myths and misconceptions to avoid believing or doing them. Bettors who depend on mere gut feeling or superstition will find gambling on sports unprofitable and costly.


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